Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bonus FFB on Wednesday: The Case of the Lame Canary -- Erle Stanley Gardner

My copy of The Case of the Lame Canary is the one pictured here, the 23rd printing from 1954.  It's probably been through dozens of more printings by now.  I've had the book for years but hadn't read it.  When I found myself in the mood for a Perry Mason case, I picked it up zipped through it.

It's impossible for me to summarize a Perry Mason book because they're all quite complex.  This one begins with a woman who brings a lame canary (lame because of incorrect nail trimming) with her to Mason's office.  She also brings a story that doesn't hold up very well that involves some smooching, an automobile accident, and a few other things.  Mason takes her case only because of the canary, thinking that he's been fooled into taking an uninteresting case.  He's soon proved wrong, as murder enters the picture, along with a mysterious arson investigator who was involved in the accident, a lot of lies, and a lot of legal hanky-panky.  There's a race against time involved, too, as Mason has promised to take his secretary, Della Street, on an around-the-world cruise if the case is resolved in time.

How Mason arrives at the solution is a little questionable, and the summing up is complicated with a lot of little things, but Mason is, as always, eight or ten steps ahead of everyone else.  The book is fast (I'm guessing 80% or 90% dialogue) and fun, and if it's a little hard to swallow the whole explanation, who cares?  Now I'm feeling the need to read another of Mason's cases.  

10 comments:

Todd said...

THE CASE OF THE DUCK IN A COAL MINE was far less satisfying; the web of misdirection in that one was very flat-footed, the decoy clues wooden. But it does paddle along.

George said...

Reading a Perry Mason is like eating potato chips: you can't stop at one!

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

That's for sure. I read this along with dozens of other back in the early 1970s, and as George said, I'd often read a whole bunch of them back to back. This was an early one (1937).

James Reasoner said...

Who cares is exactly right. I love these books and always will. I don't think I've read this one.

Don Coffin said...

I not only haven't (yet) read this one, I'd never hears of it. (I once mistakenly passed up the chance to buy a complete set of the Mason books, from some reprint place, in hardcover...all 80+ of them for $400...have sort of regretted it ever since.

Still I like the DA books and the Lam-Cool books better...

Art Scott said...

Reread this one only a month or two ago, probably last read it 30+ years ago. Just as you described it. I do think we ought to dig up the next one in sequence, Substitute Face, which begins on their cruise ship leaving Hawaii & see just what sort of hanky-panky Perry & Della had been up to. I wonder if Gardner was toying with the notion of marrying them, but wisely demurred (or was dissuaded by his editor).

Bill Crider said...

I wondered the same thing.

SteveHL said...

My father wasn't a big mystery reader but he loved the Perry Mason books. They became almost required reading for me as a child and I still enjoy them.

James Reasoner said...

I remember reading THE CASE OF THE SUBSTITUTE FACE and enjoying it because of the cruise ship setting. As I recall, the solution makes even less sense than usual. Still great fun.

Karin said...

I just read this a few months ago, too. Perry and Della were definitely romantically involved in this book, more obviously than in some of the others. Her argument against marriage was that she'd have to stay home and miss out on all the action, while being jealous of her replacement. Makes sense in a context where married women with well-employed husbands just didn't work. Crazy now.